35mm, wisbech

A mural

Wisbech – the New Europe.

I took this photograph last week in Wisbech.  I had the Yashica T2 AF compact camera loaded with cheap Kodak ColorPlus 200 film (given to me with some prints from a photolab).  I do not like C41, so I had the film processed at my local photolab.  Only £2.50 per film, develop only.  I have so much Poundland film to use up!

I’ve written extensively before, that Wisbech is a very much a part of the New EU England, with a very high percentage of immigration from Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Russia (or ethnic Russian).  Immigrants have been flooding to the area for quite a few years now, often attracted initially by the work in local agriculture, food packing, and general farm work, or food factory work.

As an amateur photographer, I see this as history in the making.   Something very worthy of recording, and it is about people.  The above photograph is of someone else’s mural and creativity, although I tried to add to that by capturing with the surroundings of the old Wisbech wall, with all of it’s features.

The mural itself shows the River Danube, sneaking through SE Europe, with the flags of Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary added – the EU nations of SE Europe.  I don’t know if the artist has added any nationalist agendas to the mural.  Some of the names are in Cyrillic, maybe for the Bulgarians?The mural itself is painted on the rear of a “European” shop.  When it opens, I’ll have to pop in and find out more about it.

50p camera, flickr, Rants and discussions

Work of Art

Giants. Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. 50p camera project, Olympus XA, Kodak Tmax 400 film, Developed in LC29, scanned on Epson V500.

This post was inspired by Les.  He said that a lot of Flickr photographers don’t post a photo of a dog, unless it’s a work of art, but dogs are very much a part of many of our life’s (not a quote).

I’ve noticed on a few photography forums, that the majority of film photographers, just like digital photographers, do concentrate on quality.  Quality in terms of sharpness, exposure, depth, colour, focus, grain/noise, as well as composition.  Except for composition, most of these attributes are of technical origin.  That is good.  However, this can develop into the obsession held in modern digital photography, for technical perfection.  More megapixels, more sharpness, etc.

As photography enthusiasts, should we always obey the rules of technical perfection?  I’d argue, no.  As Les suggested, it could be more fundamental to photography, that we photograph life and our environment as we see it.  A record rather than a work of art.  That does not always mean a sharp perfect image – we don’t really see the world like that.  Our brains use our biological eyes like third rate scanners.  Much of what we think we see, has been filled in by the brain.  But we see signs, smiles, danger, sex, and … dogs (edit.  I nearly said and rock n’ roll).

In film, we are the alternative.  We have the opportunity to capture what is important, rather than to burst mode thousands of bytes of robot controlled perfection.

50p camera

Can I take your Photo?

50p Camera Project. Olympus XA2. Kodak T-Max 400 film. Developed in LC29.

I enjoyed taking the above photo.  I was visiting Camden Market in London, and snapped him with the crafty little XA2 before he could even pitch his Polaroid instant photo sale to me.  Hah hah!  The 50p Camera is l33t!

I’m trying out some posh film – Kodak T-Max 400 here.  Developed in LC29 at 1:19.


Black and White – simple

Our lurcher. Pentax ME Super. SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7. Ilford HP5 Plus 35mm film. Developed in ID11.

I’ve not posted on this subject before.  Strange really, considering the majority of my photography over the past year has been monochrome, or black and white, grey scale, grey tones, b&w, b/w, call it what you like.  I quite like the term argent at least with reference to er… black n’ white …. captured initially on a film coated with an emulsion of silver salts.  Argent.

Bugger, I’ll continue this into a future post or two.  For now, a photograph of me that Anita took yesterday.  Using a box camera.  In argent of course.

Kodak Brownie Flash III box camera. Foma Fomapan creative 200 film. Developed in Firstcall R09. Scanned film on Epson V500.

Portrait, Rants and discussions

Perfection V the Box Camera

Kodak Brownie Flash III box camera. Yellow filter toggled on. Foma Fomapan Creative 200 film (rolled onto 620 spindles). Developed in R09. Digitally scanned film with Epson Perfection V500.

I’ve read a few articles recently, concerning the present mainstream appetite for sharp perfection in photography.  Beginners ask, which brands of camera produce the sharpest image.  I’ve read someone describe this obsession for digital perfection as the crack cocaine of present day photography.  An image is expected to contain full, sharp, perfect, detail.  Perfectly exposed of course.  Perfectly composed as per guidelines.

I’ve also read others suggest that this is the reason for the counter or retro revolution.  The Lomo school, new Chinese film cameras such as the Holga, the revival of the Instant photo, and even for those that cling onto digital – all of those post process digital filters that give a variety of Retro looks to the image.  I’ve even read claims that the current trend in the Adobe Lightroom / Photoshop brigade, is to tone down the post process editing – to go a little bit au naturel so to speak.  Personally I still seem to see a march of HDR imagery gathering pace, but there you go.

Therefore I feel that I can publish the above photograph that I took yesterday, in a 55 year old box camera.  Between you and me though, the streaks were unintended – I suspect that the soft Foma film didn’t like my rough handling when I rolled it off it’s spindle and onto an old 620 spindle to fit in the camera.


Cameras and equipment, Film Dark Room, Film, 35mm, and scans, Monochrome, Portrait

Back to Basics – the Box Camera

Flint and Myself on a dog walk. Kodak Brownie Flash III box camera. Ilford FP4 Plus expired 2004. 120 film rolled onto 620 spindles.

Every now and then we like to take an ancient box camera out for a little simple fun.  This time it was the Kodak Brownie Flash III.  This is a very late box camera from Kodak, dating to circa 1958.  Kodak replaced their box cameras during the early 1960s, with a wide range of plastic Brownies, some designed to use 127 roll film.

The box camera had a long and noble history – they were central to the popularisation of photography during the first half of the Twentieth Century.  Kodak started making box cameras in their Brownie range in 1900.  In 1901 they introduced 120 roll film, that for many years became associated with box cameras.  This was film photography at it’s most simple and cheapest.  A basic camera obscura – a box, often a cardboard box, with a cheap meniscus lens in a single hole on one side.  Behind the lens, a simple spring shutter linked to a lever – a single stop shutter, and aperture.  A basic roll film loader that slides out of the back of the box.  A red window on the back of the box so that you could see the number of the exposure on the film backing paper.  One or two little reflex viewers in the corner of the box to help you point the lens in the right direction.  That was just about it.  A single stop roll film camera built in a box.  An idea that was taken up not only by Kodak, but by camera manufacturers around the World, and that lasted sixty years or more.

It took photography to the working classes, and it often took photography to youth.  How many famous photographers started out with a box camera?  I wonder if it could teach much to the youth of today, if they were given this, instead of a digital HD all singing dancing gadget camera?  After the shock, they might even marvel at the beautiful and simple idea of capturing light in a box through a small aperture, onto a plastic film coated with emulsions of silver salts.  Imagine children of the Digi Age … one stop, that means no exposure controls, not even manual.  You have to match the camera to the light.  Even the film was one stop, ASA 125.

I can just about remember building a camera obscura at school when I was quite young.  I hope that they still teach this to kids today.

Returning to the above photo, this Kodak Flash Brownie was a late, and advanced model.  It has toggles for two fixed focus zones (under ten feet away, or over), and for a yellow sky filter for B/W photography.  It even has a fitting for a flash gun to be attached.  High technology in 1958.  It was designed to be used with Kodak’s 620 film format.  I’ve often posted on this before, but to recap, Kodak 620 film and paper backing were identical to 120.  However, in order to encourage consumers to buy Kodak film for Kodak cameras, the 620 spindles were different, so common 120 wont fit in the camera.  Unfortunately, 620 film format is now obsolete.  Ha ha, we can easily get around this.  All that you need is a couple of old 620 spindles (most old broken box cameras have an empty spindle in them), and in a light proof environment (I use a film changing bag), you can roll a 120 film/paper backing off it’s modern 120 spindle, then back onto a 620 spindle.  You just need to practice first a little in light, and lift the taped end up – release any slack, and push it back down.  Tutorials are on Youtube.  It takes five minutes a film.

In the above case, I used an old long expired Ilford FP4 Plus 120 film that needed using up.  I’ve since reloaded it with an equally long expired Fujifilm Provia colour roll.  Anita snapped away over a few days.  Then I quickly developed and processed the film in diluted ID11.  The negatives for this class of medium format box camera are huge.  Massive 6 cm x 9 cm exposures – nine on a roll of film.  Indeed, that’s part of the magic.  Although I digitally scanned the film to produce images like the above, in future, should I wish to, I could very simply make a reasonably sized positive print from chemical process.  It doesn’t need to be enlarged.

By the way, the Kodak Brownie Flash III camera that we used here – I bought it in a box of cameras and equipment for about five quid at a car boot sale – sold a Konica that came with it for a fat profit, so this box camera was basically free.  It is in almost immaculate condition – as new (almost), and in it’s original carry case, with the owner’s address scribbled inside the bag.

We are going to continue using a box camera from time to time, and I’d recommend it to others.  It is back to basics.

Film, 35mm, and scans, Rants and discussions

Early memories of photography

1966 – my 4th birthday. Dad was shooting in colour!

I can’t say that I grew up in a photographic family, but I did very much grow up in the age of the Kodak snapshot. Most households had at least one camera. They also had lots of printed photographs, in wallets, boxes, and albums. The boxes of photographs particularly impressed me. I loved rummaging through the old black and white prints of family. I guess that my family were pretty typical. I’m sure that I remember some old camera in a drawer that use to belong to Dad, and I saw photographs of him as a young man holding or carrying cameras. However, Dad spent literally everything that he had spare on us kids. In 1968/9, he did buy himself a Super 8 cine movie camera to record us – other than that, the cameras that I remember were ours. 


My earliest camera was a Kodak Instamatic 25. I recently bought another that I spotted at a car boot sale out of pure nostalgia. Just the feel of the body and shutter release brought back memories. I guess it must have been around 1971, when I was about nine years old. I remember laying in the grass, trying to photograph a herring gull nearby, on a family holiday in the Isle of Man. I also recall packing it into my bags for a school trip to London, and taking pictures of ducks in a London park, and pigeons at Trafalgar Square.

Instamatics were Kodak’s replacement for a sixty five year old line of Brownie cameras – snapshot cameras for the family and even children to use. My Instamatic had two stops – sunny and cloudy. A hot shoe fitting for a strip of one-use flash bulbs. Fixed focus only, and with a viewfinder. Whereas the Brownies had used medium format roll film – 120, 620, and then 127, the Instamatics were designed to use Kodak’s latest user-friendly film format – the 126 film cartridge. A black plastic encased, paper backed 35mm film that forwarded from one square frame to the next and did not require rewinding, it embodied Kodak’s long tradition of making photography cheap and simple to use.

The Kodak Instamatic 25 that I recently spotted in a car boot sale. Just like my first ever camera.

If I had enough pocket money, I could afford Kodak colour film. Otherwise I’d have to manage with cheap black and white. The excitement of opening a wallet of square photographs, picked up from the chemist. I loved the smell that burnt out flash bulbs generated. What would we have done without George Eastman and his Kodak company?


A few years later, it was the Polaroid. Elder brother, sister, then I got one. Big bodied, I remember squeezing around the shutter button (did that set the focus or exposure), then clunking down. This was followed by holding on firmly to the camera strap, while ripping out a wallet of strange smelling chemicals and plastics. In minutes of counting mississippi’s, I could peel out an instant print – still wet. There was so much waste material! Photography couldn’t get much easier and faster than this though, could it? Brother, sister, favourite toys, friends, and of course pets, formed the subjects. Why didn’t we invent the selfie?

Again, I remember biking maybe a mile up the road to a shop that sold instant film. One time I lost my money on the way to the shop. I was heartbroken. Bizarrely later that day, I picked up a similar amount of money that someone else had dropped elsewhere. Back to the shop that sold Polaroid film!

110 Compacts

After that, I’m not sure, but I think that it was later Kodak Instamatics, (or my old 25), then 110 pocket cameras. 110 film format was similar to 126 – only a narrow, tiny film encased in a plastic cartridge, unsuited to any enlargements above the standard print. I certainly had one when I left home, and started working as a zoo keeper, at the age of fifteen years. Easy, compact pocket cameras, sometimes with two focal lengths (wide angle and telephoto), and a hot shoe for disposable flash cubes (four use). The 110 really was a crap film format, but so cheap and pocket sized.

Around the age of seventeen years, when I was still working as a zoo keeper, I was lent a Yashica medium format TLR camera. I only took one roll of 120 film with it – but it seemed terribly old fashioned to me – the roll film was just strange. Even then I saw 120 as old fashioned film, after all, I was acquainted with film in a plastic cartridge. Seems ironic that I buy 120 roll, and use it now – some thirty five years later.

35mm Autofocus

My brother David bought a Canon AE1 during the early 1980s. A real, automatic SLR camera, with lenses and filters. Oh I loved that camera, but I could only afford compact point & shoot cameras. Still, I converted to 35 mm film at last, and there were some seriously good compact cameras now on the market – with built in electronic flash, autofocus, even motorised film advance. I really can’t remember the models that I used, but I think that following my brother, that I brand preferred Canon. They weren’t SLRs, but they did allow me to improve on my 110 photography. I was taking more interest in photography, along with David, and although I didn’t have much of a camera, I picked up on some of his techniques such as composition.

A 1990s snapshot of my kids with Kodak film vending machine in background!

I stuck with 35mm autofocus compacts until I switched to digital, except at one point, I’d guess in the early1990s, when a salesman talked me into a Kodak disk film camera. What a terrible format. The camera didn’t even last long. However, colour film really had sorted itself out by now, and some of the colours were great. Like David, I preferred Fujifilm, but if unavailable, considered the Kodak Gold to be nearly as good.

During the early 1980s, I would take my used 35mm C-41 films to be developed at the Norwich branch of Jessops. In those days, Jessops was very different to the later model that went into receivership a few years ago. The staff actually understood photography. The store even sold used equipment. It looked like a camera shop. However much we were pleased with our prints, we were shooting too much, and needed to save money. This was the age of postal photo labs such as Bonus Print, and True Print. We would post them off, five in an envelope to get the best value. Each day, I’d check with the postman to see if my prints had arrived (when will my prince arrive – old joke.).

I never took photography seriously enough to consider myself as a photography enthusiast, until as recent as five or six years ago. However, going way back, I enjoyed photography, and enjoyed documenting my life in photo albums. I amassed a pile of photo albums over I guess a fifteen to twenty year period. Raising a family, I stuck to a series of compact 35mm cameras, all of the way into the new millennium.

That was my experience of the Age of Film Photography.